Enter Health Information Technology: Expanding Theories of the Doctor–Patient Relationship for the Twenty-First Century Health Care Delivery System

  • Eric R. Wright
Part of the Handbooks of Sociology and Social Research book series (HSSR)


Since the publication of the Institute of Medicine’s landmark report To Err is Human (1999), health care industry leaders and policymakers have emphasized the central importance of improving the quality of care and reducing the number of medical errors. More recently, various health information technologies (HIT) have been identified by many as essential quality improvement tools. Indeed, over the past two decades, HIT has expanded dramatically. While originally viewed as a hospital-based resource, HIT is increasingly entering the exam rooms of both primary care and specialty providers. The enthusiasm for HIT is undeniable, yet the impact of the expanded use of HIT on the care delivery process, especially the impact on the doctor–patient relationship, is still unclear. Available research highlights an emerging paradox. On the one hand, the strength and quality of the doctor–patient relationship have been shown to have important implications for understanding both the quality and outcome of care provided. At the same time, a growing body of literature suggests that physicians’ utilization of HIT during consultations may be changing the nature of their relationships with patients. This chapter reviews the literature on the expansion of HIT in primary care settings and explores the sociological implications of this emerging trend for the social dynamics of doctor–patient interaction.


Electronic Health Record Health Information Technology Patient Relationship Personal Health Record Medical Encounter 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



The author would like to thank Harold Kooreman, Brian Dixon, Ainur Aiypkhanova, and Oluyemi Aladejebi for their research assistance.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Public Health, IUPUICenter for Health Policy, Indiana University School of MedicineIndianapolisUSA

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